by Goran Damnjanovic, Gaming Columnist
Published in Gaming on 29th May, 2019
Rage 2 shines bright as a diamond during firefights and is quite a pretty game but the story is average at best and the game's open world doesn't impress.
Rage 2 has its moments but they are ultimately shadowed by the game's unimpressive open world and a story that never reaches levels higher than of comic relief (and it isn't very comical).
This might sound like a disappointment but bear with me. You see, even with its many flaws Rage 2 can be an exhilarating thrill ride for those who know what to expect from the game. Embrace Rage 2 without expecting it to be a complete package that delivers in every area and you might have a really good time with it. But even those who just want a nice and bloody shooter have to give the game a couple of hours.
You see, Rage 2 opening is slow, unimpressive, and cliche to the bone. You live in a Ranger base that also serves as a training ground. You are a rookie, a recruit that one day should become a superpower wielding badass Wasteland Ranger, one of the few tools of justice in the post-apocalyptic world of Rage 2 that depicts the Earth after an asteroid destroyed human civilization.
As soon as you pick your gender (you can play as a male or female) the second choice gets literally squashed by a door while you find out that the base is invaded by some bad people. They kill the leader of the Rangers who's also your adopted mother along with every Ranger that found themselves in the base during the attack.
Your character puts the armor of one of dead Rangers and becomes the last Wasteland Ranger, Walker (yap, the guy's really called Walker). Then you find out that the Authority general who invaded the compound is the main source of evil in the Wasteland and that he must be killed. He almost destroyed humanity in the original Rage and it seems he's still alive and kicking, ready for another apocalypse.
You get a pistol and an AR and are free to roam the wild to look for allies who might help you in your cause, location of which is shared with you by your dying mother.
And those couple of hours spent traveling towards map markers (that are really far), discovering your first couple of Arks, and upgrading some weapons and skills, are quite boring to be honest. I mean, shooting is excellent but you're limited to two weapons, one of them being the revolver. The world is huge and barren, dotted with paper cutout buildings and not much else.
Driving is slow and soul-crushing because the world design prevents you from taking shortcuts. There are bandit dens and other activities to partake in but most of those are populated by enemies that are just too hard and can kill you in ten seconds. Rage 2 looks like a massive disappointment during the early game but then it starts to show some of its potential.
You discover arks that house new weapons. You also learn that you are special and capable of wielding superpowers like regular rangers. And after you unlock a couple of those (like Shatter and Slam) combat becomes a tasty mix between shooting and using powers that have devastating effects on enemies.
The marriage between powers and shooting combined with the game's superb movement mechanic (you can jump, double jump, slide, have unlimited sprint, etc.) is like being on an never-ending honeymoon. The game's divine trio of weapons - automatic rifle, shotgun, and rocket launcher - is unlocked early on and it remains the focus of each gunfight for the better part of the game. And man, do guns here deliver. The feel when shooting from any weapon is just right.
Expected since the shooting part of the game is done by id while other parts are developed by Avalanche. And shooting is what works flawlessly in this game.
The ballet of jumps and quick headshots is spliced with powers like the Shatter that sees you sending energy waves through enemies, simply shattering them. Slam is the second chaos dealer, a power that activates while in air and that sees Walker slamming the ground, turning anyone unlucky enough to be in the vicinity into a bloody pulp.
You can perform a double jump in order to reach targets on roofs and higher ground and then simply levitate for a couple of seconds (by holding the right mouse button) while shooting the bastard who dared to throw grenades at you. But despite powers being super cool and movement the best since Doom, weapons are the main star of the show in Rage 2.
And you feel like a powerful weapon of mass destruction while performing all those bloody combos, like a hero capable of turning anyone and everyone into a pulp. Combat in Rage 2 is so visceral, so much filled with adrenaline, it's the pinnacle of shooters and the strongest part of the game.
The shotgun is heavenlike in its handling. It has a strong kick that sends little bits of joy that turn your face into one huge smile with each pull of the trigger. Its secondary fire (right mouse button) sends slugs of super-accelerated metal that simply pierce through enemies and send them flying to the nearest wall or other obstacles.
The rocket launcher is a giant killer and perfect for large crowds of enemies. It feels like it looks (like it weighs half a ton) and each shot has that sweet power that cannot be explained with words. And finally the automatic rifle doesn't have fancy shots but it does feel amazing and extremely physical while it shoots hot lead.
There are other interesting weapons such as a huge rail cannon capable of shooting through enemies and killing any regular bad guy in one shot; gravity gun works like Ricco's grappling hook in Just Cause titles, connecting two objects and then making one to accelerate towards another often with bloody explosive effects.
Pulse cannon is a futuristic LMG that becomes more powerful while it overheats and with constant cooling, it can one-shot most enemies. Weapons in Rage 2 feel great and are great to use and overall, this game has the best shooting since Doom.
There are also other powers on your disposal like a quick dash and faster movement for a few seconds. You can also erect an energy barrier that stops bullets. There's also health regen power, a defibrillation power that prevents you from dying, and a Vortex power that looks like some gravity energy ball that pulls everyone and everything towards it.
And finally you have the Overdrive, which refills with each successful kill and turns you into a killing machine who moves faster and deals much more damage. This system of cool powers and great weapons is augmented with an excellent upgrade system. There are various resources to loot in the Wasteland and those can be used to upgrade various stats.
Feltrite crystals are the main resource and are used to upgrade powers and weapons. After you upgrade powers and weapons you also unlock specific perks that can be unlocked with specific resources (augments for powers and weapon mods for weapons). Each power level offers better and better perks.
And each upgrade really make a noticeable change while playing the game. You also get projects, one project type per one major NPC (there are three of them in total), and those also unlock some cool upgrades like more health, more ammo to carry, fewer materials needed for crafting, etc.
All of this builds capable and explosive gameplay that looks incredible. Really, Rage 2 looks amazing in motion and you simply have to see the game in action before you disregard it as another soulless shooter.
The action is mesmerizing and extremely addictive. Shootouts are so great that even a single moment spent outside of a gunfight feels like wasted time. And all that is backed up by pretty solid visuals. Sure, the world doesn't look striking or attractive as the world of Red Dead Redemption 2 or The Witcher 3 (or even Fallout 4) but it's a bloody post-apocalyptic wasteland so no beauty is supposed to be found there. Lighting is nice and can make the game really pretty during the day and during sunrise.
Character models are detailed but the game suffers from enemies all looking the same. You have a couple of models for bandits, Authority, mutants, and the fourth fraction and that's it. This can make any gunfight to look like you're fighting an army of clones but the sheer explosiveness and energy of combat in Rage 2 will rarely give you time to think about how all enemies are the same.
The game isn't as colorful like trailers suggested but objects and general architecture look okay. Objects are detailed but they all look like cookie cutter clutter found in post-apocalyptic games with buildings looking like props for a movie or a play and not like a part of a world that was destroyed a long time ago.
There's lots of gore and blood and it all looks great while you fight, as it should. Also, effects are magnificent and during encounters the screen will show a cacophony of colors, explosions, blurred and altered vision. Overall, visuals are an excellent overall but lack in making the world feel like a proper post-apocalyptic wasteland.
And that wasteland is filled with wasted time. The map is huge and there's no fast travel so expect to spend as much driving as you spend battle dancing. Vehicle handling is awful, with most vehicles being too slow and too unresponsive to feel right while driving them. Others behave like F1 cars and accelerate at extreme levels, driving you off the road as soon as you hit the gas button.
My advice is that you wait to unlock the flying vehicle with two rotary engines and then use it exclusively. It is fast, can fly above any mountain and is extremely easy to control compared with all other means of transportation.
Driving is so tedious because the world is a barren wasteland, a huge barren wasteland. Developers could've designed a map that's 2x smaller and would still be able to keep all those mutant nests, Authority towers, bandit camps, and other activities while keeping time spent in driving from one part of the map to another to the minimum. Aside from marked activities the game world doesn't offer much more.
There are huge ghost towns that are just empty, without even one NPC. Large parts of the map are designed like canyons with just a road to follow meaning that you can simply fall to your death if you drive off-road, which can be pretty frustrating. There are 6 different areas to explore. One's a barren desert, two are basically canyons with different lighting, the third is an arid savannah, and you also have rainforest and swamp.
And each one looks artificial and unimpressive with synthetic borders between them that are visible from afar. You won't find random strangers with cool stories here; you won't stumble upon secrets; you won't discover random quests. No, the world is simple scenery for the game's campaign and other than being stuffed with open world activities it doesn't offer any content at all.
The story is similarly underwhelming. After your town gets annihilated by the Authority your dying mother informs you about the Project Dagger, which had a goal of killing general Cross (the main bad guy) and stopping the Authority for good before being abandoned. And yes, your goal is reactivating Project Dagger and killing general Cross.
You do this by visiting three characters who were behind project Dagger. One is a mad scientist, one's a mayor of a major town in the Wasteland, and the third one is also a mayor I guess, but of a much smaller town.
Anyway, all three of them have some urgent business for you to take care of and each story arc lasts for about two hours. After you help them you will have to assist them in making the Wasteland a better place by completing projects and leveling up.
Marshall wants for mutants and raiders to be killed and their bases and nests to be destroyed. Doctor Kvasir values info about the world and Arks, and Loosum (the mayor of the big town) is all about the order on the roads and wants for you to destroy Authority towers, refueling stations, and more.
Once you reach level 5 with each member of the Project Dagger you unlock the final mission and that's it. This can take anywhere between 8 and 15 hours, even more, if you want to 100 percent the game.
Sound is excellent, with loud explosions, good balance, and great surround effects that really helps you if you play the game with headphones or a surround sound system.
Sadly, voice work is awful and many NPCs sound like developers stopped people on the street and asked them to read their lines. The sad part is that all those random people were super bored delivering lines that would sound more convincing if read by a Windows text-to-speech voice.
Dialogue is also cringey most of the time, stuffed with swears that have no impact and filled with dumb (like, really dumb) jokes. Enemy AI is unimpressive to say the least.
They spend their time shooting at you, throwing grenades at you or mindlessly running towards your bullets. Harder difficulty gives them more health and makes them more deadly and it is recommended to play on hard because with all those potent weapons and powers the game feels like a breeze on normal.
Another thing that disappoints is the fact Rage 2 virtually doesn't offer any boss battles. There are those huge mutants that play bosses but they all the same and follow the same pattern so after killing the first one you know what to expect from future encounters. This really is a shame because Rage 2's gunplay and powers are begging for unique and tough bosses capable of really putting your skills to the test.
In the end, Rage 2 is a phenomenal shooter marred by its open world design and poor story.
During shootouts, you really feel like a superhero, a member of a law-abiding force that is genetically modified and unstoppable by mere mortals. The exciting war dance made of gunplay, powers, and awesome movement mechanic can grow old really hard. But it can.
Since the game doesn't offer anything other than excellent gunplay and pretty visuals it's bound to bore you sooner or later. In my case, the boredom hit at about 12 hours.
I then quickly finished the main mission and ultimately clocked in just over 13 in-game hours. And that's another Rage 2 strong point. The game doesn't overstay its welcome. Since the story is pretty short you can simply finish the better part of it and then have fun killing bandits and mutants until you get bored.
Once Rage 2 becomes a chore just launch the final mission and finish it all in less than an hour. This relative length is great and allows the game to cut (or expand) its span depending on your personal preference.
Some will get bored after 6 hours, others (like me) will enjoy the Doom-level quality of shooting for a dozen or so. And FPS fanatics will probably spend 20 or more hours in Rage 2. And that's great because the game can last just enough for your needs, no more and no less.
The story's bad but that doesn't matter if the action is good and here, it is otherworldly good. If you're looking for a great shooter well, look no further. Rage 2 is fun as hell and I really had a blast playing the game. The great thing about Rage 2 is that the game can be dosed based on how long you are entertained by the shooting.
This is a recommended title for all FPS fans and all those who look for super fun gunplay. If you're looking for a story-driven shooter with great missions, well-written characters, and competent story well, look elsewhere.